EU Calls for Self-Extinguishing Cigarettes

By 2010, the European Commission wants to replace traditional smokes with the "fire-safe" variety across the bloc

The European Commissions is expected to propose before the end of this year that all cigarettes sold across the EU should be self-extinguishing to help prevent smoke-related domestic fires that kill around 2,000 Europeans each year.

The commission is set to ban traditional cigarettes by 2009-10, according to UK daily the Guardian, forcing smokers to only use "fire-safe" cigarettes. These will stop burning automatically if they are not regularly puffed on with small gaps in the cigarette paper cutting the circulation of oxygen.

Numbers received from most of the EU member states show that about 2,000 people across Europe are killed every year in house fires caused by cigarettes and a further 7,500 injured.

Several accidents happen when smokers fall asleep on the sofa with a lit cigarette or when smoking in bed.

"There have already been discussions with the various stakeholders such as the fire-safety authorities, the tobacco industry and consumer groups. There is general support across the board," one commission official told the Reuters news agency.

An product safety committee met last month and is expected to then vote at its next meeting, in November, to ask CEN - the European Committee for Standardization which regulates the quality of all consumer products sold in Europe - to devise an EU-wide standard for "fire-safe" cigarettes.

New York State in the US was the first place to legislate on fire-safe cigarettes, while Canada and eight other US states have already followed suit. Australia is considering passing a similar law.